Member Rara Avis
I want more poetry that doesn't tell me how the writer feels but that makes me feel.
I probably don't disagree with what you mean, Brad, but I'm a bit uncomfortable with the syntax. I think the only thing a poet can ever tell me is how they feel. If they try to tell me something other than their personal feelings, it's going to sound false. (That's not to say they need to have experienced the situation; a writer with empathy and imagination can experience the feelings without the situation. But that is rare.)
I'm not suggesting, of course, that a writer has to bluntly say "Okay, this is how I feel." But the story or theme of the poem has to be based on their own personal feelings or there's no Truth within it. "Write what you know" is a cliché for a reason - it works.
What I think we agree about, Brad, is that conveying how you feel isn't enough. That's merely communication (with a little "c") and the most you're going to accomplish is to give me a little insight into your life. That's not bad, but it's also not poetry. Poetry (Communication with a big "c" ) only happens when you make me feel what you have felt. Then, instead of merely having insight into your life, I actually am allowed to live your life, if only imperfectly and for a brief moment. At the risk of sounding pretentious, the former gives me only knowledge, but the latter grants me wisdom.
The big question, of course, is how do we do that?
Writers have hundred, if not thousands, of tools to reach that end, but I think two of the most effective are detail and metaphor.
If I want you to feel something I first have to get you to see it, and that is the responsibility of detail. The details have to be significant (which is the hard part) and in just the right measure (almost as hard). There are no trees in poetry, only oaks and willows and firs. Detail is measured in nouns and verbs, and only rarely in adverbs and more rarely in adjectives. But if I get the details just right, the correct details and just enough of them, then I open the door to feelings.
Once the door is open, I'm going to need something to push you through it. That's often the job of metaphor. If I ask you to remember the sharp, jarring pain of stubbing your toe, all I really need is a few good, significant details to prod your memory. We've all done it, most of us remember it (clearly!). There's no need to compare it to something else you've done to make you relive the experience. 'Course I'm also not really teaching you anything, either. But if I ask you to remember the ache that clutches your belly when the radio announces a nuclear missile was released and you realize everything you know and everyone you love has thirty minutes until annihilation - well, I have a bit of a problem. That's not something you've experienced before. I can't remind you, no matter the depth of detail I provide. What I can do - what I must do - is compare the feeling to something you likely have experienced. Like maybe that stubbed toe. Of course most metaphors, the best metaphors, aren't that obvious (or that silly). But they're one of the best tools a writer has to make you feel something new, or see something with new eyes, by reminding you of something old.
Hey, Brad - you shouldn't get me started that way!